This piece is absolutely spot-on. Kudos!

One thing that I've noticed is that in the contemporary "discourse", no distinction is made between an "expert", an "authority", and a member of "the elite". But they all connote and denote different things. "An elite" wields power, whether legitimately or not. An "expert" is one who claims knowledge and understanding in a specific field, usually one where you are trying to decide how to solve a specific problem: they are about means rather than ends. An expert plumber helps eliminate the tendency for your pipes to clog; an expert recording engineer helps your band sound great on your MP3s. Experts can be wrong, but when they are it is usually because they have failed to stay in the lane of their expertise.

"Authorities" are different. They have devoted their lives to study a given field, but "study" as a concept involves at least some measure of familiarity with other fields. For example, a historian is aware that ideas as well as events move history, so they need to at least dabble in philosophy. Likewise, a philosopher must realize that philosophies are embedded in specific times, and hence is compelled to know and understand history. Etc.

Authorities' practice of study is conducted within institutions that guide and mentor the authority as well: their progress, or lack thereof, is vetted by their peer authorities. This precludes neither fallibility nor disagreement -- far from it. The institutions that enable authorities -- universities, hospitals, scientific research facilities, seminaries, etc. -- are more arenas for debate than repositories of dogma. To understand authority is to understand the debates and disagreements in which they carry out their practice of study. Authorities can be mistaken and should be challenged when they are. But that implies that they need to be recognized as authorities in the first place: i.e., that their views be given proper weight and consideration before being dismissed. You take Isaac Newton's view of gravity seriously before you decide whether to jump off a cliff to see what happens. Likewise, you should take what Anthony Fauci says about COVID seriously before you go to that rave in SOHO, or that motorcycle rally, unvaccinated and without a mask.

AuthoritarianISM is bad because it eliminates the fallibilism involved in the true exercise of the understanding and knowledge involved in study; in fact, "authoritarianism" in this political sense amounts to the arbitrary and despotic rule of an elite. But authority itself is something pretty everyday: we couldn't live without it, and acknowledging it has something to teach us. And THIS is what the age of the Internet has seriously undermined in our culture. The remedies to this perilous situation are ready to hand: 1) get your information from curated and epistemically reliable sources, and 2) read books rather than Twitter feeds. These remedies may prove frail, in which case God help us all.

Again, thank you for a great piece.

Writer, philosopher, information technologist,guitarist, neurotic, polite radical, avid and indiscriminate reader, Episcopalian, trans woman.